Is the build up to the 2020 governorship election in Edo State really splendid or absurd? If the game of politics is generally splendid, the motive is absurd, at least in Nigeria. Two basic ingredients lacking in the Nigerian political climate are the magnanimity on the part of winners to share their victory and the equanimity on the part of losers to accept defeat. Aside from the morbid drive to carry profane party flags, most politicians in Nigeria now hug different contours of unbridled ambition; and so they go into politics as a “do-or-die affair.” True, the political business corners a huge chunk of the ego market due largely to the enormous return on investment as the one most profitable business venture in the country. Indeed, politics is tougher than most professions to actually sort through the excess refuge since all manner of characters go into it with reckless abandon, hence no decorum in their approach to the game.
In virtually all the states in the country, paralleled political structures exist alongside the official party structures, all in the name of capturing political power. And one of the states in which the battle for supremacy is more ardent currently is Edo. As always, the bone of contention is still who will call the shots at the palatial Governor’s Office along Dennis Osadebe, Avenue, GRA, Benin City after the governorship election scheduled for Saturday September 19, 2020. Given the desperation among politicians to capture power as executive governor of the agrarian Niger Delta State, now sadly run aground by irresponsible leadership since the past four years, the issue is one for serious political evaluation and honest intellectual articulation. In it, sense and spirit must not be sacrificed merely to pedantic refinements. For a state known for its high sense of political sensibility and civility, now reduced to a haven for acute political imbecility and desperation, the schemings before the elections have been strident.
The war, verging on conspiracy, rebellion, and betrayal, is indeed taking a toll on the soul of the state as the various interest groups that started beating the war drums soon after the sitting governor, Godwin Obaseki who was mistakenly foisted on the people in 2016 declared his intention to remain in office, still waft their odium. Between the All Progressives Congress, APC and the opposition but ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which has mismanaged the fortunes of the state due to mundane political rascality, the contest is getting murderous. The result is the mindless polarization of the state along several contending divides. Three gladiators who have been spoiling for a showdown in the state’s power calculus are Mr. Godwin Obaseki, the PDP sitting governor; Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the APC whose looming presence and popularity index are causing a stir in Obaseki’s camp and, of course, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, the immediate past Governor and erstwhile national chairman of the APC, who helped Obaseki to power in 2016 but who is regretting his action and has vowed to ensure he is removed from office because of Obaseki’s low performance. In addition, there is Mr. Anselm Ojezua, the estranged State chairman the APC who unfortunately has been playing the role of Judas Iscariot against his party.
In a democratic environment such as ours, these people have the right to either exercise their franchise to vote and be voted for or their fundamental human rights to express alternative political opinions. Indeed, all of them have the legitimate right to aspire to occupy the office of governor of the state. What is reprehensible, if not outright nauseating, is the way and manner Obaseki and Ojezua are going about the campaign and the process of convincing Edolites to support their ambition. The ubiquitous jockeying for power has assumed an incestuous frenzy in these two characters that they have resorted to blackmailing and intimidating Ize-Iyamu just to run him down. For now, the battle-line has been drawn between those who want the state to remain in primitive, hunger-prone capitulation and run it like a family estate and those who are determined to extricate it from wayward impotence to a rapidly developing state to be numbered amongst the eleven five best states in Nigeria. Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu represents the latter group whereas his traducers are dreaming of empire consolidation.
Yet, until recently, Edolites had not embarked on the search for new political icons. Given the absence of political, economic and social developments in the state since the past four years, instead of politicians to dwell on issues as the driving force of their campaign mantra, some of them are still swimming in the arcane politics of a departed era. With practically nothing to show the electorate for his four years in the saddle except media propaganda, Obaseki has chosen to employ the treacherous services of Anselm Ojezua to distract Ize-Iyamu who is on a rescue mission to extricate the state from his misrule. But the odds still favour Ize-Iyamu. Such political gladiators in the state as former Commissioner for Information, Kassim Afegbua, are arms in hands against Obaseki.
Afegbua, a firebrand activist and PDP chieftain, has vowed to close ranks with the APC to ensure that Ize-Iyamu wins the September 19 governorship election. Afegbua is not alone in this pensive anguish to undue their party since Obaseki broke all protocols to buy his membership of the PDP and secured the party’s ticket within just a week after losing the APC ticket. The PDP in Edo State remains an opposition party in power torn to shreds through the antics and shenanigans of one man’s ambition. Under just two months of Governor Obaseki’s desperation to remain in power, more than 50 of his aides and more than 20,000 of his erstwhile followers have deserted his camp and have openly declared support for Pastor Ize-Iyamu of the APC. This is definitely not about party affiliation but about personality. And like Edmund Burke, the great British political philosopher once said, that a politician’s platoon is his home base, if you are abandoned by your people including your immediate family, what else do you need to confirm the fact that the odds don’t favour you?
The recent defection of three commissioners and some advisers from Obaseki’s camp to Ize-Iyamu’s, has really unsettled the governor and he has resorted to primordial pastimes to save his face. Again, with the recent defection of the Deputy Speaker of the State House of Assembly to APC, Obaseki was left with no choice but to incite a minority of seven members of the House to impeach the Deputy Speaker. Some restive youths are also reportedly being hoodwinked into the border lines ostensibly to cause trouble. Hogwash! Because majority of the youths are idle, they are easily swayed with empty slogans and co-opted into mundane restive jamborees by separatist movements. There should be a deliberate policy geared as it were towards employment generation to accommodate our teeming graduates and empowerment of those who want to go into business.
These are some of the issues that should engage the attention of those who want to govern the state. And these are the issues on which Pastor Ize-Iyamu’s political philosophy is predicated as capture in his Simple Agenda campaign programme. Politicians should test their popularity through the articulation of ideas and solution-delivery templates. The electorate in Edo State are educated enough to be provided with educated alternatives in order for them to make informed choices. Not a recourse to frivolities, especially when those inanities are concocted to discredit opponents who have no time to swing anybody. Now, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, having been fully prepared with a message of hope on how he would rescue the state from underdevelopment, poverty and misrule, remains the only hope for the people. Even without Oshiomhole, Ize-Iyamu has all it takes to win the election. The odds favour him.
• Amor, journalist and critic, writes in from Abuja